By Andrew Moore

COLUMBIA — The electronic verification system used as the teeth of South Carolina’s recently passed immigration bill has received an extension, Sen. Lindsey Graham’s spokesman Kevin Bishop confirmed Friday.

The system, originally slated to expire Nov. 1, was granted an extension until March 9, 2009. In the meantime, United States congressmen must debate a longer extension.

E-Verify, originally established in 1997, is a national system run by the Department of Homeland Security that uses information from social security and other databases to confirm the legality of a worker’s status and is one of the primary mechanisms used to firm up South Carolina’s immigration policy.

Employers violating the verification requirements can be fined between $100-$1,000 per worker, and if they are found to have knowingly hired an illegal immigrant, their business can be temporarily shut down, up to 30 days on first offense and five years if caught a third time.

Local and national politicians have called on senatorial leadership to push for the system’s extension as a means to ensure proper illegal immigration law enforcement. Rep. Bill Sandifer, Sen. Larry Martin and Sen. Thomas Alexander publicly called for E-Verify’s extension, while U.S. Senators Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid urging him to use his leadership to prevent the system’s expiration.

According to Graham’s office, E-Verify is used by roughly 80,000 employers to verify the legality of their workers. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, more than 1,000 employers voluntarily sign up to use E-Verify each week.